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Digital First Publishers: A Path to Publication
When I began writing for children, I didn’t expect to publish with digital first publishers.
I’d been hearing about digital first publishing from romance writers for a couple years. But, it
wasn’t until the explosion of ipads, Kindles, and Nooks that I became willing to take the plunge.
What is a digital first publisher? Digital first publishers are small, royalty paying presses
run by anywhere from one person to a handful of people. Books are acquired through
submission. The author does not pay to publish the book. Books at digital first publishers are
released as digital books. Some may have a print book follow within a year of the ebook. Digital
first publishers will have editorial staff which includes both content and line editors, cover
artists, book designers, and promotion managers. If you are considering a small press, ebook
publisher, these are some things to consider:
Book Design: eBooks are designed and formatted. For example, in my upper middle grade,
Stained Glass Summer (Musa Publishing) there are small paint brush graphics in the scene
breaks. The font varies from the title page to the chapter headings. There is a cover page, a title
page, a copyright page, and a dedication page. It is not simply a document file which has been
uploaded to an ebook.
Distribution: Most ebook publishers will have your book available to purchase through their
websites. But, your ebook should be available in more places than a publisher’s website.
Amazon has a big share of the e-book market, but your ebook should also be available through
Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and itunes. Before you submit your manuscript, check out some of the
titles on the publisher’s website. Can you find them with multiple sellers?
Library Market: Patrons can check out ebooks for their ereaders. However, in order for the
libraries to purchase ebooks, they need to be in a large system such as Overdrive. Some small
press ebooks may not be available to the school library markets through Follet. But, some school
libraries can buy your book through Overdrive.
Network Opportunities: One of the best parts of being an author with a small, digital first
publisher is the opportunity to meet other digital authors from all over the world. Both Musa and
MuseItUp have Yahoo boards set up for authors. Questions can be discussed such as: how to do
blog tours, what promotional tools work best, as well as shout-outs for blog interviews and news
about good reviews. Participating as an author with a small press means there are also great
opportunities to join in blog hops with authors who write in other genres. This is a great way to
get your book out to people who might not see it through the children’s blogs and markets.
Reviews: Does the publisher’s books get reviewed on blogs, journals, and/or Goodreads? Many
of the small, ebook publishers are new and their ebooks are not being reviewed in places such as
Kirkus or the Horn Book. However, there are still many children’s and young adult blogs open to
ebook reviews. Do a search on some of the children’s blogs. Do you find the publisher’s ebook
Editing: How much editing will be done on your book? At both Musa and MuseItUp, I had a
content editor and a line editor. Edits were done via email. My editors and I used track changes
and worked through three rounds of content and line edits on each book.
Payment: But what about payment at digital first publishers? Do authors pay to be published? Is
there an advance? Musa Publishing Editorial Director, Celina Summers reminds authors,
“Money flows to the author and not the other way around.” Authors at digital first publishers
such as Musa, MuseItUp, and Entangled, are not paying to have their books published. At Musa,
royalties are paid quarterly through check or paypal with a 50% royalty rate for books sold
directly from Musa’s website and 50% of the net amount received for each sale made directly
from third-party wholesalers, distributors, resellers, or vendors. At Musa Publishing, authors can
track their sales an on-line program called Delphi. This system can be a great help when
marketing a book. Did that blog tour sell any books? How about a recent school visit?
It’s important to do your market research if you are considering a small, epublisher. Is the
epublisher approved with SCBWI PAL? Contact ebook authors and ask them about their
experience. Look at the publisher’s reviews. Do they have reviews on Amazon and Goodreads?
What are people saying about the books? There will be pitfalls and mistakes, but, if you go with
a small, epublisher, you’ll find it’s a great time to be an author and on the cutting edge of
publishing’s newest chapter.
Mindy Hardwick’s upper middle grade ebook, STAINED GLASS SUMMER (Musa Publishing),
is a 2013 EPIC eBook Award Finalist in the Children’s Category. Her young adult romance,
WEAVING MAGIC, is published with MuseItUp Publishing. She is included on the Washington
State Teaching Artist Roster and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from
Vermont College. Visit her at: www.mindyhardwick.com